It Was Okay.

Lately since I got here (Holland-Bloorview Children’s Rehab), I’ve been saying that a lot. “It was okay”, is like a catchphrase for me.

“How was your day today?”

“It was okay.”

“How was your physiotherapy/occupational therapy/psychology/your meeting with your social worker?”

“It was okay.”

Mainly because it’s going literally okay. Originally, OK stands for “zero killed”. So in that sense, I’m okay. But really, I’m not okay. I feel really bad because I can’t do things I normally do by myself. Although, I’m improving, nothing is ever fast enough. Yes, they tell me I’m improving faster than expected and yes, they tell me I’m above average at times, but every time I struggle with finding a word (like when I couldn’t remember the words hammock, planetarium, hourglass, or cannon) I get upset. It’s like you recognize the object, but you’re at a lost for words of what it is. Not to mention my right hand is weaker than my left and I type really slow because of it. At least I can type now right?

However, I just want to go home. I haven’t been home in three/four weeks. I was either in the hospital or in rehab. That’s a long time to be away from home. I haven’t even been on a trip for that long. I guess this is more of a journey and less of a trip. My recovery journey is less beautiful than you would expect. It’s not rainbows and butterflies, it’s tough work. It’s assessments that make you feel stupid for forgetting a word, it’s physical assessments as well that test how well you can do stuff like roll over and bridge, it’s also hand assessments that test how well you throw a ball or cross out shapes. Overall, it tests how your brain will react, how fast it reacts, and how well your hand reacts. Slowly but surely, both of those things are coming back. But when you can see how you aren’t getting 9/10 out of ten, it still hurt me on the inside as a tryhard. Or when I see I only got through half the shapes to cross out or dot, that hurts me inside. I wish  I could have done the whole thing but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t hit the target every time, I can’t always remember the words, and I don’t even have the memory to remember a list of ten words. The main thing is that I’m trying my hardest to be faster, more agile, and to improve my memory.

I’m really trying. So let me be inspired by the kids who were singing songs at the campfire, and let me be jealous of the teenagers that could actually sing. That’s fine. That’s good jealousy. To say the least they inspired me to try harder and be better than I was yesterday. It won’t be right away that I recover and can go back to school, but I’ll wake up for breakfast tomorrow ready to start my day right. Maybe I’ll have a better than okay day. A spectacular, marvelous, fantastic, or exceptional day perhaps. I’m sick of frowning. Maybe I’ll try smiling tomorrow. Everything is only a maybe, but a maybe is better than a no.

So let us rejoice for the idea of improvement because that’s all that is pushing me to do better than yesterday.

Sometimes.

Sometimes I wish I could have everything, have it all if I could.

Sometimes I wish I could be whatever I want. A superhero, a scientist, a surgeon, or a marketing specialist even.

Sometimes I wish I could fly. Let’s be honest here,  it will be really cool if I could do that.

But now I can’t even walk. I can only limp through the halls and use the commode. It feels like death learning how to do math again. Basic math. Like $9.99+$2.29+$4.80, or 8×9, 189-12. I’ll relearn eventually, but for now I feel so stupid. I feel so dumb for not knowing how to carry over my numbers, not knowing how to multiply or divide, and not knowing how to add or subtract.

I had a brain tumour. Keyword is had, because the moment it was removed I lost the movement in half my body until later this year. I’ve been improving, but it’s not good enough. It never is. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, I just had a tumour the size of a peach or apricot taken out of me from left side of my thalamus (which affects my right side; noncancerous). But I feel so bad nonetheless. I had put my parents in so much stress and worry. They were the ones that massaged my legs until I could move again, they were the ones that bought me my food when I wanted it,  they were the ones that went to multiple places to get me what I want. They were the ones that were there for better or worse for real. 

My friends are coming today,  and I’m so excited. Irene, Karen, and Jenny are coming! They’re really coming! First Chipotle tacos are coming, then a caramel machiatto is coming. Yummy.

I felt so sad a couple days ago. I couldn’t do anything myself to being able, to move my hands and legs is a huge difference. I don’t think I can recover fast enough to be satisfied with my progress. But I’ll manage, I always do. I won’t be back in school in time but I’ll but better and ready for harder material.

I’m going to go to Holland-Bloorview rehab hospital tomorrow. It looks like a resort there. It’s mostly for kids, so I’ll get my own computer and TV, not to mention they will have classes for me too. Maybe with how fast I’m improving I’ll be back sooner than predicted.

In the famous words of Arnie, I’ll be back.

Strength.

What is strength anyways?

It could be defined as physical strength, and even then it could be arm strength, leg strength, and core strength and more. It could also be mental strength,  the brain is a muscle of course. So as much as the gym is strength training, life is strength training as well. Everyday you’re faced with various challenges. Think of every problem you deal with as a rep.  Maybe today you’re trying to pass a math test, each chapter you study could count as one repetition. Soon enough, you’re “strong” and can do spectacular on your test. But if there are so many varieties of strength, how do we compare our strength?

I think everyone has some sort of strength which also comes with weaknesses. For instance, if you’re a powerlifter, chances are, you won’t be the most graceful gymnast. However, both of those skills are recognized as a talent to want. I’ve wanted to be all of those things at some point. I wanted to be the top scholar, fastest runner, best at makeup and nail art, funniest (or punniest), most beautiful, team captain, and pretty much everything else that’s possible to “win” at. Competition drives improvement. If we didn’t have a desire to be the best, nothing would ever change in the world. Diseases wouldn’t be cured, we should all look the same, and without change, it can only get worst. So competition is great.  Dog eat dog worlds are scary,  but still great. Even numbness creates strength. I can barely feel my right leg right now, but it’s stronger than my left leg.  Maybe I’m trying to compensate for what I don’t feel, but I guess that in itself is a metaphor. If it doesn’t feel right, try something else or try harder. Even my legs are trying to improve themselves subconsciously.

Strength is about improvement.  Strength is about not giving up. Strength is about saying fuck you world, I have more to accomplish. Strength is about crying but for a good reason. Strength is about being unselfish, but still giving yourself a chance at what you want. It is not losing yourself to please others, but it is also not losing others to please yourself. I realize that sounds ironic.  How can you do both? I guess that means that strength also means making the right decisions based on the situation. No, you probably can’t be a vegan and be a top bodybuilder, but who’s there to stop you if you tried?

You’re probably thinking I’m being melodramatic.  “You’re not even dying yet Jessica,  what do you know about any of this?” But if you think like that, then where is the line of when you have the right to say these things and think this way? Who knows. This isn’t “1984” , there’s no thought police. But there is always Big Brother. There’s always some sort of set of rules to guide us (possibly in the wrong direction) and there’s always people willing to go against those rules. If you make it your life goal to follow all the rules, it can be a show of strength. If you make it your goal to go against those rules, that’s strength too.  After all of this, I still have no idea what strength really is. However, I still believe strength is about yourself. If you feel stronger, you probably are stronger.

So, strength isn’t completely comparable. You can compare individual components of strength, maybe an arm wrestling contest or a math competition, but no one can be the “world’s strongest person”. Maybe I’ll win at something today,  but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be the best tomorrow. At any moment, there’s someone better than you at something else. That’s the beauty of it. You can always improve. We want to be selfish and terrible people so we can become the best person we can be.

Life is a game against ourselves. For a place where we compete against others all the time, we don’t get many “great job,  you improved ribbons”. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep track of our own accomplishments.  Today, I won the most UNO games against my parents and I was the patient that walked the most circles around floor 9. Congratulations Jessica, you did something today–realizing your greatness is the first step to being truly great.

So let’s all throw our hands in the air (wave them around like we just don’t care) and say my name is __________, and I’m great.  I’m strong. I’m amazing. And there’s gotta be something that that I can kick your ass in today.

“This could be serious.”

My name is Jessica.  I’m a full time worrywart,  student, and I also apparently have a brain tumour. As an avid watcher of dumb television,  I feel like I belong in some sort of soap opera or drama; in which case I would end up bald, dead, or a more realistic approach would be I end up fine.  Two family members with cancer and a decent biology mark later, I still don’t understand much other than the basics.  Yes,  I know what an EKG is, how a tumour develops, and the components of the blood you’re drawing out of me, but what does that really mean?

I started the day with a normal summer schedule of doing nothing and then a regular eye exam. After telling him a few of my symptoms that I thought were normal and having a few tests behind my eyes, I somehow end up in need of a brain surgery due to abnormal amounts of pressure behind the eyes caused by a tumour. Turns out the little things I thought I was just being whiny about was actually serious. I always thought  my problems revolve around my emotions and stress.  I was “that girl”. The one crying about a 90 and freaking out because of something completely ridiculous and meaningless.  This blog was meant to be my way to share my feelings, and it turns out I will have something interesting to write about. Maybe the hardest year of my life was just starting. The post I wrote yesterday and deleted now seems even more petty when I just had a team of 4 neurosurgeons and 2 regular doctors stand in front of me. Ouch. And I thought my stye was the problem.

Hospital rooms seem too familiar to my family and I. Cells like to become abnormal too often, and I apparently also like to get sick a lot.  Last time someone I knew was in the hospital, they died in around two weeks. That’s hard. You’re telling me that doesn’t happen often? You’ve got to be bluffing, and even if not, I only know two people who needed to come into the hospital recently. One’s dead and one still is recovering and lost a husband.  If you ask me,  I’d say this an unfair trade for someone that worked so hard all her life. We’re not sure what I have,  but tumour is generally not codeword for “you’re healthy go home”.

Now it’s the waiting game; actually,  it’s always been the waiting game for hospital visits. I can’t tell if writing all this is helping me or upgrading my worries. Either way, I’m doing something productive while I wait.

I was worried about my fitness in terms of how fast I could get some sick biceps and my 6-pack abs, but before I could really get there, I was spending hours at time in the hospital for my grandpa’s cancer and by the time of his passing I just never went back. Who could have guessed my laziness and headaches had their own reason as well? I’m not even in my surgery yet and I’m thinking, how fast I can get back to school, get back to my teams, get back to my clubs. Everything happens for a reason, and I feel like the way I felt in the last few months was a way to prepare me for the last few days. Besides, I have some sick white stickers on my head (kinda like a massive science experiment. I was a 5th grade science fair winner you know). The good thing is that I’m passing all my tests they give me (maybe not my CT or MRI…), but if all goes well, it will be a good story to tell. Maybe if I stopped cursing myself every time I made a mistake and stopped being mean to cancer I’ll be okay. Sorry cancer, I take back the fuck you, but we all know you’re just really terrible.

NTS:

PRO-Saline is an effect time-saving method instead of eating.
CON-Not as tasty.